Margot Bloomstein has some questions about a home in her neighborhood that recently hit the market.
On top of the “For Sale” sign at the end of the driveway, an additional sign made a pointed declaration, perhaps to entice potential buyers with a nice perk or in the interest of full disclosure.
“NOT HAUNTED,” it said, in bold, red letters.
Ok, who put this here? Was it a ghost that wants to keep a low profile? A longtime spectral resident announcing he’s found a new haunt?
“This just went up around the corner and I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS,” Bloomstein wrote Wednesday morning in a tweet that included an image of the sign.
By Thursday, thousands of other people online also had some queries, as Bloomstein’s tweet went viral and was shared more than 14,000 times. It was retweeted by actor George Takei, as well as Neil Gaiman, author of the macabre.
In an interview, Bloomstein said her husband first noticed the sign while out for a walk Wednesday morning with their German Shepherd, Rex. He took a photo of it, and showed it to Bloomstein when he got home.
Baffled, she had to see it for herself, so the couple drove over together.
“I said, ‘Oh my goodness, I want to see that too,’” said Bloomstein, who later shared the picture to social media. “It certainly brought a smile to my face — and also to almost 100,000 other people’s faces” who “liked” the tweet.
Bloomstein didn’t want to say where the house is to respect the homeowner’s privacy, she said. But she reached out to the real estate agency, Ponte Realty Group-Keller Williams Realty, South Watuppa, to learn more about the small rectangular sign, known as a rider.
Turns out, they knew nothing about it either, she said. Very mysterious.
“They said that they didn’t put up the sign,” said Bloomstein. “It raises more questions than answers.”
Somebody from the real estate agency even contacted Bloomstein separately on Twitter, as her post gained steam, to say, “‘Wait a second, where is that sign, because that’s our sign but we didn’t put up that rider,’” she said.
Bloomstein said the conclusion they came to was, “maybe someone is playing around here” — or maybe, as some people joked on Twitter, it was a ghost looking to throw people off the scent.
“Sounds like something a haunted house would say,” one person quipped.
Representatives from the realty group did not wish to comment Thursday. The sign has since been removed.
Bloomstein wondered if perhaps her neighborhood has its very own “Banksy” on the loose. If it was a prank or an attempt at public art, the signs are easy enough to find. A quick search on Google shows that you can purchase “Not Haunted” signs in the same red-and-white color scheme on Etsy.
The signs have been used by real estate agents in other states to sell homes before. In December, a Baltimore-based real estate agent placed “Not Haunted” signs outside of two properties on the market, to give people a laugh and attract some attention.
And in New Orleans, known for its spooky past, realtors have been known to employ such tactics — though sometimes they playfully use “Haunted” signs instead.
In Massachusetts, real estate brokers and home owners are not required to disclose whether a property is host to the paranormal.
“The fact or suspicion that real property may be or is psychologically impacted shall not be deemed to be a material fact required to be disclosed in a real estate transaction,” according to Massachusetts General Law.
That includes if “the real property has been the site of an alleged parapsychological or supernatural phenomenon.”
The law does not seem to address whether it’s okay to disclose that a house is not haunted, at least not anymore.
Betsy Merry, of MerryFox Realty in Salem, said if people happen to ask about alleged bumps in the night, they would disclose that information to a buyer.
“I wouldn’t put on the listing, ‘By the way there are ghosts in the house,’” Merry said. “If someone said, ‘We have heard,’ then we would say, ‘Yah, we’ve heard the same thing.’ We would corroborate, but we’re not going to bring that up.”
While Bloomstein got a laugh out of the sign’s presence, she also viewed it through the lens of her work on trust and how “information empowers people.”
“For me I saw this as such a perfect, crystalline distillation of what does it look like to disclose information? It’s such a simple, most basic form of disclosure,” she said. But “in this case, I don’t think it was the real estate agent who put up that rider, so we can draw our own conclusions.”
Survey says: A likely prank. Still, “who’s to say there aren’t prankster ghosts?” Bloomstein asked.